Our lead counsellor, Marianne, takes over the reins in this episode. She is joined by Veronica Victor and the pair discuss what it’s like to move from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco to the tranquility of rural Ireland, where Veronica has found the peace to transition after 37 years.
The conversation tackles hypersensitivity and hypervigilance, parenting styles and Veronica’s plans for the future, which include training as a therapist and running an animal sanctuary. She hopes to eventually combine her two passions by specialising in animal assisted therapy.
You can read more about Veronica’s experiences here: https://www.gendergp.com/open-letter-transgender-friend/
If you have been affected by any of the topics discussed in our podcast and would like to get in touch please drop us a line at info@GenderGP.com.
We are always happy to accept ideas for future shows, so if there is something in particular you would like us to discuss or a specific guest you would love to hear from, let us know.
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Hear more from Veronica at Shapeshifter radio podcast, available for download from Spotify and on your favourite podcast app.
Thank you. We hope you enjoyed our program. Do go ahead and subscribe if you haven’t done so already. If you or anyone else is affected by any of the topics discussed on our podcast and would like to contact us, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re very happy to accept ideas for future episodes and guests, or if there is something specific you would like us to cover. You can also visit our website, www.gendergp.co.uk. You can follow us on social media @gendergp, and you can sign up to our monthly newsletter. Full details can be found in our show notes on the podcast page. Thanks for listening.
The GenderGP Podcast
Transitioning in Ireland – The GenderGP Podcast S3 E5
Hello, this is Dr Helen Webberley. Welcome to our Gender GP Podcast, where we will be discussing some of the issues affecting the trans and non-binary community in the world today, together with my co-host Marianne Oakes, a trans woman herself, and our head of therapy.
Marianne Oakes: Hi, this is Marianne Oakes, lead counsel of GenderGP. I am joined this morning for this podcats by Veronica Victor, who is a trans woman living in Ireland. We’re going to be discussing her experience of life in Ireland, but also her life in general. So I think it would be best if I hand it over to veronica to explain a little bit about herself, who she is, and a little bit about her background. Is that okay, veronica?
Veronica Victor: Yes, that’s great. Thanks so much for having me. It’s such a pleasure to be a guest on the podcats. I live in Ireland with my husband and 13 animals now, our growing menagerie. I have my own podcast, called Shapeshifter Radio, which I just started up after transitioning in Ireland, which was a different podcast we did about ten episodes, and then we called that project quits. And then I started a new one with new cohosts. We are trying to get that off the ground now. I’ve been transitioning for just over a year, and I have recently had top surgery. So things are moving on quite nicely for me, I should say. I am originally from the States, I grew up in a mixture between California, Ohio, and Florida, and then I went to San Fransisco as an adult after I got my degree in Anthropology at the university of south Florida. I am now going back to school as an adult as a therapist. I’ve just been accepted into a four-year program here in Ireland, where I will be starting in September.
Marianne Oakes: Wow, so it’s been quite a 12 months for you, I would imagine.
Veronica Victor: Yeah, it’s been really—I guess for someone who doesn’t know me very well, it seems like a lot, but actually every 12 months of my life is a lot. I don’t ever stop, really. Every Christmas or New Year, my husband and I say that it would be nice to have a mellow year. Let’s have a mellow year. Like the next year, let’s just be a little bit mellow. And then by about march, everything is running, and it’s like, “So much for the mellow year.”
Marianne Oakes: I am trying to imagine what it’s like to have a mellow year with 13 pets.
Veronica Victor: It really doesn’t happen. But even that is so funny. We moved into this house a couple of years ago, and within the first six months, we had seven chickens and three rabbits. And we were like, all right, this is happening, we are living the country life full-time now. And from there, it kind of blossomed. We now have two piglets, a puppy, and another rabbit.
Marianne Oakes: Wow.
Veronica Victor: We lost two of the chickens, so—if you’re doing the maths, that’s how it adds up. We embrace life. It’s too short. You don’t know when your time is really going to come, so just do what you feel makes you happy.
Marianne Oakes: There is so much that you’ve said already that my mind is spinning with questions. I suppose the first thing is, this is somebody that has moved from cities in America, and you are now living what I assume is rural life in Ireland. I am just wondering what that journey in itself has been like. That in itself feels like a transition.
Veronica Victor: Yes, it was a huge transition. And I think in a lot of ways it took a lot more adjusting than my gender transition, to be honest for sure. I mean, I don’t think I could have lived this lifestyle at any other point in my life. Like I said, I went to school in Tampa. It’s a large city in Florida. It’s not Miami, but it’s one of the three. You have Orlando, Tampa, and Miami, which are usually the places that people have heard of. It’s a big city, and then I moved to San Francisco. I was right in the heart of it, down in the tenderloin, right in the nitty-gritty. And then I moved to Dusseldorf, which is also a large city, not nearly as nitty-gritty. It has a reputation for being very bougie. It’s obvious why if you’ve lived there long enough. And then we’ve lived here. It’s not entirely removed; we do have neighbours, we can see other houses. We are not in the absolute fog, but we’re about 20 minutes from the nearest grocery store. We have to drive pretty much everywhere. Even to post a letter. You have to drive for about 5 minutes. There is nothing in there except a post office and a bar, in the village next to us. So it’s definitely a transition, but it is one that I was so ready for. We were living in Dusseldorf, and it was so loud and so city-like. At the time, my anxiety was getting really bad, and I would just come back from out and feel angry, like worked up and keyed-up angry. I hated that feeling. That is not who I am at all. I was experiencing so much frustration, especially living in a country where the language is challenging, and the patience of the native speakers isn’t always there. So when you are trying, it is often met with exasperation or dismissal or whatever. So you just come back feeling like, “Fuck the world or fuck all these people. I can’t deal with the world anymore.” Obviously, my anxiety is better now and under control. We’re loving it. We have plans for the future. Our big dream is to buy the field that is behind our house and have an animal sanctuary/therapeutic centre where I can treat patients using animal-assist therapy and rescue animals and have them there as therapeutic assistants.
Marianne Oakes: I think if I am hearing you correctly, that it’s almost like you found the life that you needed in Ireland.
Veronica Victor: Yes, and I wouldn’t have been able to transition any other time. Living here has given me stability. Like the house is owned by the family. We know we’re safe. There are some things living in the country that you’re not always safe—we had an attempted break-in. There are some dodgy characters who take liberties. But all that aside, we feel secure. We know we have a place that isn’t going to be taken out from under us. In San Francisco, I was constantly concerned that our landlord was going to be like, “We are raising the rent by 7 million dollars,” so we wouldn’t be able to live there. And that’s a reality in San Francisco, unfortunately. But here, we don’t have that concern. That peace and security and the loving relationship with my husband, I feel like we finally have this now and I embrace it and stop running from it.
Marianne Oakes: But the risk of sounding too much like a counsellor or therapist, it feels like what you’ve done is created the environment that you needed to be able to explore you.
Veronica Victor: Yes, and it’s really surprising because, at a period in my life, I would have said no, I am such a city girl. I have to be in the heart of it. I have to be where things are going on. I need the noise. I need the chaos. But I think a lot fo that was actually distracting me from where I really was. I think city life was offering me a cover. I could resort to vices—one of my biggest vices pre-transition was anonymous sex. San Francisco was fantastic for that; there is sex on every corner. I was able to just kind of move along and not deal with some of the issues—and when I say issues, I don’t mean miserable. It’s just that my gender would fluctuate. If I felt very safe, I would become very effeminate, and I would become very flamboyant. My gender would become more threatened. But when I felt threatened, like when I moved to Germany, I shaved my head. I wore masculine dark clothes. When I went out in public, I put on my don’t fuck with me face. It would fluctuate, depending on my level of security at a certain point. I felt like this means something, there has to be a reason behind why I think it is safer to be so masculine, to the point where I would grow a moustache. Like, alternate between mohawks and shaved heads, and try to look as tough as I could. Even though the minute I opened my mouth, it was like pearls and rainbows falling out. I have to find out what this reason is. So I sat down and started to look at what the reason was, and I had the mental clarity that I had not had in a while, because my anxiety was actually being managed through medication and therapy, and I was getting a grasp on things. Like, these feelings of doom, these feelings that it’s all going to end—that’s not real, it’s a chemical thing. Now that it was under control, I could deal with the reality, which is that if I transitioned, I won’t end up homeless and alone and resorting to survival sex work. Which were all things I had assumed would be the only way. Considering transitioning in the deep south is a terrifying notion, and I went to the same university which I graduated from, I entered a masters program for applied anthropology. And my thesis was on men who need gynaecological care in the deep south and how it relates to transgender people. So how are gynaecologists educating themselves about masculine vaginas and neo-vaginas, which is what they called them. And I haven’t’ been able to find out if people still call them neo-vaginas, but I kind of like it. Of course, my research didn’t go very far, because the faculty wasn’t equipped to deal with that research. They did not know how to help me access trans people who are going stealth in the south out of survival necessity. My research didn’t go very far, but the little bit that I was able to do put me in contact with people who were extremely at risk experiencing homelessness, experiencing substance abuse. It really scared me. I guess this may sound judgemental, but none of them was even close to being able to pass. Because, obviously, they didn’t have the resources to access the things that would help them to be able to pass or live more genuinely. For me, the thought of, I hate to say it, the thought of looking like them, and the thought of having the risk of being homeless and loveless and of destitute—I thought, no, I think ill just stop short of this genderqueer thing that’s coming up now, and I think I’ll just enjoy the in-betweens. When my good friend, who at the time identified as a post-op transsexual, she told me, if I had had the freedom that you kids have today, I would not have gone as far as I did. Because now, gay men don’t want me, straight men don’t want me. I was like, oh my god, this is terrifying. I can’t even wrap my head around that. All of that culminated in being closeted for 37 years. When I say closeted, I was still very genderqueer, I was still very gender fluid. I was still very queer in myself, but I wasn’t able to recognise that the reason nothing was ever fully fit, is because my body itself needed to change.
Marianne Oakes: It seems like you stumbled upon the wrong people that you did at the time, and that potentially went into internalized transphobia, internalized shame. And that then influenced the journey that you’ve taken since then to where you are today. Would that be fair to say?
Veronica Victor: Yes, a hundred per cent. I think I still struggle with some internalized transphobia if I am completely honest. Just in the sense of how I judge myself, not necessarily how I judge other people. I’ve always been very generous when it comes to other people. When it comes to myself, I think most of us can relate. We apply a different rubric, a different standard. So of course, there are a lot of things that I realise as I go through this process, that are, actually, “It’s pretty fucked up of me to expect that of myself.” Transitioning at month 3, I was like, why am I not, whatever—like almost expecting myself to change overnight, and then anything in between is almost expected to be discriminated against or called dirty names. To the outside world, I am not trying hard enough, because I am not ticking these boxes. And I still struggle with that. There are a lot of things that I have to have done in order to walk out into the world and feel like I have done my part. I’ll say after top surgery, that’s really helping. I actually feel a lot more comfortable around those things. If the neighbours see me without makeup on, I m not wrecked fro the day. It’s kind of like, “Meh, whatever, I have tits, so I don’t care what you think.” It definitely helps. Gender affirming surgery as a treatment for that dysphoria, I mean I can attest that it is quite an effective treatment.
Marianne Oakes: I wanted to take you back to the honesty that you gave earlier when you met those people. I think we all do. All trans women do this. We look at others and think, I don’t want to be them. And it’s always a sad prospect, yet there is no other area of life that we would look perhaps at other people and take on what they are as if that is going to be us. Does that make sense? And I am just wondering about how you moved from that position to now? Are you more comfortable with who you are and you’re actually not reflecting someone else, and you’re just reflecting yourself? Do you know what I’m saying?
Veronica Victor: Yes, I do know what you are saying. I would argue that I would have a tendency to do that in other areas of my life as well. I kind of look at people around me either in my studies or jobs that I have had or social situations and compare myself. I’ve had a really hard time with self-comparison throughout my life. And it’s not always necessary that I come up short. It’s kind of just my mind. It’s nota stick that I beat myself with, but it is always on my mind. Like I measure myself with it. I think that what I am experiencing right now is a level of comfort which I have in those feminine swings when I was allowing myself to be more expressive, more feminine, and flamboyant. I was not really that effeminate. I grew up working in the boathouse, digging up roots, and I am quite a butch woman. Let’s be real. But at the same time, that level of gender expression at those moments in the past, that is kind of what I am experiencing now but at a deeper level. I don’t compare myself as much to any other trans person because I am just me. Because I now know through exposure, through media representation, through personal connections, thorough activism and community building—I now know that the trans community is much more diverse. At the time, all I knew was these at-risk people, and the mysterious concept of a stealth trans person, who was completely passing, completely quote-unquote “finished”, and who was completely inaccessible to anybody who didn’t know them prior. It was this kind of mythical being that roams the forest at night that nobody would ever be able to catch. Those were the only two dichotomous representations I had. There was no one in the media when you’d see movies and television. The first trans person I saw in a movie was in The Crying Game, and it scared the shit out of me.
Marianne Oakes: Yes.
Veronica Victor: There was a lot of, like, a lot to be said about pushing yourself out into the community and meeting as many people as you can. And understating that, okay, this person is a little bit like me, this person is nothing like me. And that’s okay.
Marianne Oakes: I am going to bring it to Ireland because that’s part of what we’re here to talk about. I’m just wondering how you’re experiencing, firstly, rural Ireland, but also, the preconceptions that you had prior to transitioning, and also, how you’re experiencing life while integrating into rural Ireland if you know what I mean. Has it been straightforward? Have some of your fears been realised? Or has it been nothing like you expected?
Veronica Victor: when I would think about it on a bad day, it’s been nothing like it. When I think about it realistically, it’s been a little bit closer, if that makes any sense. As far as the rural element, living rurally in Ireland, I can say that I have had no outright negative experiences in rural Ireland. When I am in the towns, such as in Wexford town in particular, or certain parts of Enniscorthy, which is the closest town to us but is a very small town, I have actually experienced some negative things. People kind of saying things. This was early in my transition. I can almost guarantee that—I don’t know if you do this—but sometimes when you pass somebody, you don’t look at them, but you kind of follow them in your periphery to see if they look back at you. I was very paranoid in my early transition. I would kind of watch, and almost without fail, certain people would pass and give me a second look. What was that? That has stopped. I don’t know if it is because I am passing more or if I am confident or if I am less concerned about it. Whatever it is, luckily it has ceased, because it was really getting to me. Kids were the worst. Passing a group of teenagers in Wexford town used to make my heart to speed up. I was like, okay, waiting for the shoe to drop. At what point am I going to snap and tell these kids about themselves, and risk some parent popping out of a shop to call me out on it. It was so frustrating because I felt the right to be laughing or exclaim—this old man once, it was either a man or a woman, they were really confused, and I said, “Fuck off, I’m just here for my groceries.” A woman once called me a faggot, in front of her kids. And I couldn’t believe it. I actually went in to cry for the kids. You call me a faggot, that’s not gonna affect me anymore. I haven’t been called that since I was sixteen. But if you’re going to do it in front of your kids, your kids do not deserve that. To be witnessing that kind of hatred, I hope to god that won’t ever stay in the basket in the back of their head, like I did with so many things I witnessed as a kid. Just to kind of answer your question, because I tend to ramble on, neighbours have all been great, maybe in some instances, there has been a kind to the face kind of thing. I am totally okay with that. Be kind to my face, that’s all I want. If you have something to say in the background, or when I am not around, it doesn’t concern me. As long as you don’t disrespect me directly, I’m good. Our neighbours are great. I was actually surprised when we came out to our next-door neighbours, because they’re a heterosexual couple. They don’t seem to have any interactions with the queer community. And I sent them a text to say this is what is going on, and whatever just so you know because they do have two kids and I wanted them to know, so they could have the conversation and whatever. Like actually, the father was like, thank you for trusting us to tell us this. I was like, what a super progressive response to get. That’s very good. They’re as sweet as can be. I have no issues with them. We do neighbourly communications, such as complaining about noises and dogs and all kinds of stuff in the country. That part has been okay. It’s just that in the towns in the beginnings, it was rough. Luckily now it has completely ceased, and I don’t experience that. It was really rough in the beginning.
Marianne Oakes: I think there are all those parallels in the way that you are talking. I can obviously relate to—I think one of the things that I was going to reflect back to, I found that, in the early days when you go out, you’re hyper-sensitive and hyper-vigilant to everything around you. But the more comfortable I became with myself, the less sensitive and hyper-vigilant I was. Does that make sense? And maybe that is what you were going through in the early stages as well. That keeping people in the periphery. Did they look back? Did they smile, or did they laugh? I think that is probably a trans thing, and not specific to Ireland, but I think that when you move on to the children in the UK generally, they’re open and far more informed in diversity. I’ve been really shocked if a parent would use that kind of language in front of the children. There is definitely a difference between rural Ireland and generally in the UK. I have to say there must be still people in certain towns and areas who are a little cutoff.
Veronica Victor: Yes, I would say that is probably also the case. I don’t feel any more comfortable passing a British group of teenagers, to be honest. Not to be kind of critical on Ireland or the parenting styles that I have witnessed while being here, but these really challenge me. And certainly, it is a trans thing, not an Irish thing. I certainly would have experienced transphobia anywhere. Even within san Francisco, of course. It would have happened. I’ve experienced homophobia everywhere that I lived. I would have experienced transphobia everywhere that I lived. The thing that makes me more hesitant is this notion that on the one hand, I really agree, on the other hand, I want to caution around the notion that as you become more comfortable with yourself, people discriminate you less. It always made me feel at the time like it was my fault because people would say, oh well, once you get more comfortable with yourself it is going to stop, but I want it to stop now so I can be more comfortable with myself. It is really hard to be comfortable with yourself when it keeps happening. So it’s kind of like saying, if you just relax, I will stop pricking you with all these needles. Yeah, but I can’t relax while you are pricking me with needles. And I understand the sentiment around why people say that. Once you’re more comfortable, you experience less discrimination. But what I want to see is a society where someone can go out into public completely uncomfortable with themselves, and still be assured and loved, and not have more needles pricking into them and saying you’ve got to relax. And you can’t, it’s very difficult.
Marianne Oakes: I suppose, to be clear, it isn’t so much that anything changes around us, it’s more that we change if that makes sense. I am using my own experience. I don’t know whether other people will (unclear 26:07) any more than I ever did, I’ve just become (unclear 26:11). I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
Veronica Victor: I will say one thing around that hypersensitivity. There have been instances where I have been too sensitive. For instance, there was a woman once, at a coffee counter, where I was getting coasters or something, and she said—because I had wanted vanilla or whatever—and I thought she said “sir”. And I said, “Sorry, I just want to ask, I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but what is it about me that made you feel like you wanted to say sir?” Because I was genuinely interested. I was doing everything I could to not present as “sir”. And the only thing I cannot really control at this stage is my voice. So I wanted to know, is my voice that masculine that you are willing to call me sir, against all odds? And she goes, “I didn’t say sir. I said sorry.” But in Irish, they sometimes leave the y off, and to me, it sounded like sir. And in other instances, people have called me man a lot, but no, they’re calling me “ma’am”. The Irish accent makes it sound a lot like man. Another thing that I thought was really funny, because my name is veronica and there is like a nickname here, and it’s like Vunny, for veronica. And I was like, why is that person calling me that? They’ve been really accepting of me, and there have been no instances of misgendering me, and they pop off and call me that. And my husband was like, right, if they’re from this certain region, that’s what they call people named Veronica. So I have been a little bit too sensitive, but the accent drives me nuts sometimes.
Marianne Oakes: It takes some getting used to, I have to say. I can relate to that as well. Because people will use the word guy here. And for trans women, we’ll get really sensitive to that. But actually, they call groups of girls guys as well.
Veronica Victor: I used to teach quilting classes here in Wexford town, and the woman who ran the school, it would be a room full of women, and she’d say, “Alright, lads. Come gather round the table, lads.” It was not meant to be like that. Obviously, these were cis-gendered women of all ages. She was not trying to misgender them. I used to wait tables, and I would go up to tables and say, “what can I get you, guys?” regardless of who was sitting around the table.
Marianne Oakes: I think what we’re really talking about here is having to adjust to our environment. We are hypersensitive at times, and if that can stop us from seeing it as what it is, so there is an adjustment that we have to go through, are people being disrespectful or are they just being people? Are they doing that with everybody?
Veronica Victor: Yeah, a hundred per cent. There is a fine line, and that is not to diminish the instances where it is pretty blatantly clear that they have got not a nice thing to say. There is some work to be done there. I think that the majority of the work, and I think you can agree, is on the societal side. If you see somebody who is walking on pins and needles, and they’re a little uncomfortable, don’t kick them while they are down, for god’s sake. Don’t wait until their head is held high until you show them any respect. You need to be able to embrace not just the people who have confidence but those who are working on it.
Marianne Oakes: One of the things that really confuses me about Ireland is that their laws have become very relaxed around diversity. So, same-sex marriage, the gender recognition certificates, you know, you can self-identify now. They’ve kind of passed that through with relevant ease. And we’re still struggling with that over here in the UK.
Veronica Victor: Yes, Ireland is a strange place. It is almost like it exists within two realities, because there are those situations when things get passed through unanimously and it seems like we are all on the same page, and then when you scratch the surface, you see that there are these few key gatekeepers who are actually really keeping it back on the ground. When you deal with the day-to-day experience of being a trans person, particularly accessing services, there are these gatekeepers who are so entrenched in their privilege and their influence that they just kind of stop that progress which you are in the process of realizing. So while it may be really easy to change your name and change your gender, and of course, equality of marriage is fantastic, there are still certain things that almost matter more on a day-to-day basis, if I’m honest, that present people with more distress than those kinds of bureaucratic processes.
Marianne Oakes: I think that’s it too for the UK if I am honest with you, certainly where healthcare is concerned. I mean, the healthcare that we do get—I’m sure some people will listen to this podcast and shout at me, but it is really poor in the UK under the NHS. This is someone who is practising this care. What you say is that I think the issue is that perhaps what’s happening in Ireland is there is a wave of more acceptance within society. However, education is not keeping up. I’m on a stereotype here, but I also feel like religion has got a hand in it as well. That, we’ll let you off the laws, but it doesn’t mean that we can necessarily accept you.
Veronica Victor: I actually have to be honest and say that I have experienced less religious people. I don’t want to say, zealots. I have experienced less religious people than in the States here in Ireland to be fair. It seems to me like the religion is definitely, it is seen as it really is. There is a segment that hasn’t caught up yet. But I am often surprised, even by my in-laws or whatever. Somebody who would have been Irish-born and raised, and catholic or whatever, they’re not stupid to the fact that the church is messed up. That there are lots of wrongs that have been done by the church and a lot of hypocrisies, and with every story that comes out, it gets deeper and deeper. They are constantly unearthing these mass graves, these babies, or = remains of babies from these homes that—where the women would go when they weren’t socially accepted, and they would give up their babies, and the kids were just dumped into sceptic tanks and things like that. To somebody who has been reared and read on being pro-life, or anti-choice, which the church is, to then see the church do these things, to find out that there is actually this big conspiracy where the priests were forcing the nuns to have abortions because they were pregnant with the priests’ children. That these things are coming out now. People are not ignorant to them and to what it means, so the church is having less and less and less influence over people and their decisions, because they are going like, “You can’t tell me what to do. There is no way. You told me what to do, and I listened to you and now look at what you’ve done.” And luckily, that is happening. There is an enlightenment here around the church in general, particularly when you go to a place like Dublin and some of the larger cities. There was only one place that didn’t pass the marriage equality act; the rest of the counties all passed it. I think this really speaks for the fact that the church is not in control like the way it was in the past. So I really have to give Ireland credit for that.
Marianne Oakes: I think, as I sat here listening to you, it really sounds like it’s all moving in the right direction in Ireland. I think, purely by, evidenced by your transition, and in particular, in the type of area that you live in, that kind of shows just how farnot just Ireland but maybe the western worldis moving despite the negative media attention.
Veronica Victor: I certainly hope so. I’m a little bit cynical, and I wonder how much of Ireland’s progression is reactionary. In the sense that, the UK and the United States are going right, we’ll go left. Bit of a rebel. I do hope it is genuine and long-lasting. I hope it’s not as easily undone as it is in other places. We wouldn’t say that the west itself is regressing. I would give up all of the media representation just to have a fraction of the things back that they have taken away in the past four years in the United States. The difference is night and day when you look behind the television. You look behind what we are all distracted with what is actually going on, and it is absolutely disgusting. There are actually concentration camps, which exist in the UK as well. And we are all just complacent to that and ignoring that. In a lot of ways, we are fortunate to be worrying about the things that we are worrying about. I know that is a little bit of a risky statement, but when it comes to trans people who are able to sit and say, “Yeah, but I want this easier, or I want this faster.” And we’re not saying that I fear for my life every time I leave the door, which was certainly the case in the past. I know for a fact that I will not be arrested if I go out presenting in the public space. That is a huge step forward. It’s a privilege that I have to acknowledge because that is not something which is true in other partsof the world. This is not something that every trans person in the world can enjoy, the freedom to be able to go out and know that they’re not going to wind up in jail, they’re not going to wind up dead just by going out and buying a loaf of bread, that I can actually come back home safely and go, you know what, the healthcare system here needs work, and then do that work. That’s a privilege.
Marianne Oakes: Yes, we are doing that work in a period, which surely forms my generation’s point of view, that was way beyond everything that we could have ever dreamt about. You just reminded me, back in the nineties, even in the UK, if I went out presenting as female and somebody took offence and punched me, I would be arrested for breach of the peace. Now it has changed completely. Things have moved. But you’re right, while we focus on trans issues, governments are getting away with other atrocities.
Veronica Victor: it’s not to say that it has to be one for the other. It’s just to say that certainly, as a western society, I don’t necessarily think we are progressing at the moment. I think we are backsliding a bit. But certainly, in Ireland, I hope that this continues. I hope that they are as committed to—I want to say diversity, but I am instantly flooded with a recollection of the racial issues around the traveller community here. But I want to say diversity. I hope they are committed to the diversity that they seem to be. What is important now is just to get this knowledge out that there are still people in Ireland who think that we are still back in those days that you mentioned, who are afraid to come out and admit that maybe they are late in life, that they have a family, that they have a life they need now to accept themselves, but they are terrified to do it because they don’t know that actually, outside the door has changed. And they can do it now safely.
Marianne Oakes: I am assuming that your motivation behind the podcasts is to spread a message that it is safe to step outside now. I certainly hope that that is what comes across. I don’t think we say it so explicitly, but the podcast is called Shapeshifter Radio because it has two different segments. We are hoping in the future to add segments to it. It’s kind of a radio station, for lack of a better word. There is one kind of segment where we talk to influencers or people in the community who are doing important stuff. We just had our first episode interview with Juno Roche, me, and Violet O’Brien. We kind of talk about the interview, and that’s the first bit. We amplify our signal, getting out voices up, getting people to be exposed to all this amazing diverse intelligence within the trans community. And the second segment is Behind the Headlines, and I do that with my husband, Derek Victor. And we actually—cause he is a scientist, a scientific writer, an editor and a linguist, pretty much anything you name it, he is—look at the scientific studies behind these headlines. For instance, only four per cent of relations survive a transition, and that is not true. And we look at the studies and see how they came up with that number, and why that is a fallacy, and what the real numbers are. Shame and regret is a big concern for a lot of people here in Ireland. Even allies have said, in a good meaning way, that we do need to make sure. And bitch, I am sure. I am fine. Like, trust me, as a human. We kind of, on our first episode there, dug into that. And we looked into huge studies that had been done since 1994, huge longitudinal studies with huge sample groups, and we discovered that the regret rate within the definition of the word regret is very dubious, which we also break down, the quote-unquote “regret” rate, which ranges between 0.3 and 3%. It is very small, and depends largely on when certain surgeries were done, where the study was taking place in different countries, but the vast majority of people who experienced regret was around lack of support and the social rejection related to their social transitioning, not their actual transition. So we try to tell the stories that are the truth behind these kinds of big headlines and buzz things and get the truth out there so that people can arm themselves with the truth so that when people come at them, people can say, let me tell you why that is wrong.
Marianne Oakes: It comes back to education, doesn’t it?
Veronica Victor: And it’s really important because I think one of the really difficult things here in Ireland is that people don’t tend to listen to you. There is kind of a birdsong form of communication where there is constant chatter. And they kind of go back and forth, back and forth. But to get somebody to really listen to what you are saying, it can be really challenging. I had an instance, to bring up an anecdote here, I was calling to check up on a reservation in a hotel, and I kept getting “sir”ed. It was over the phone, and I get my voice—but I told her four times, “It’s ma’am.” And she would say, “Oh, I’m very sorry, sir.” And eventually, I said, “I need you to listen. Stop and listen. You’re calling me sir, and I am a woman.” And then she finally got it. But I had already said it five times. And that is an extreme version of what can happen when you try to explain yourself, and you know they haven’t really listened. They are just thinking about what’s next. So educating them is like you need to start listening to people. You need to slow down and put your brain on hold. Whatever discomfort is happening, you need to deal with it later and listen to what is happening in front of you. So hopefully, it is contributing to that at all.
Marianne Oakes: I talk a lot about cognitive dissonance. That is, despite all the evidence that says that you are wrong, you just cannot accept it. And we talk about the trans debate, well, there is no debate, is there? We are here. We wouldn’t be here. We’re not debating our existence. We are saying it. We are saying what is the best way for us to integrate into society safely? That is what we should be discussing, not debating it. But you can’t get rid of that word debate because it’s just lodged in people’s minds.
Veronica Victor: It really surprises me. Sorry, it really reminds me—I taught English in Palestine in the past. And it reminds me of this notion. I don’t want to get into super politics here, cut this out if it is too racy for you, but the tactic of the Israeli government is displacement, they want to make the Palestinian experience so uncomfortable that they just leave. The problem is, of course, that there is no place for them to go. And that is how I feel with the trans community, that a certain segment of trans-exclusionists and transphobes are kind of trying to make it so uncomfortable for us that we just stop existing. Well, that is just not possible; we have always existed, and we will always exist. So just deal with what the real fact is, which is that we are trying to share this earth and we are not going to disappear, you are not going to disappear, we can find a way where we can just leave each other alone, and that would be better for everyone.
Marianne Oakes: yes, we don’t insist that everybody has to be our friend, do we? We just insist that they leave us alone.
Veronica Victor: Exactly, yes. Be nice to my face. I don’t care. If you have something to say—maybe I am too southern. Maybe it is a sugar-sweet kind of southern thing. I am not like that. If people are like that to me, then I know how to deal with that. Just let me get on with my stuff. I don’t really care.
Marianne Oakes: There is nothing wrong with a bit of civility, is there? At the end of the day, not everybody has to like us, for different reasons. They won’t like our politics, they won’t like our existence, they won’t like our hobbies, but it doesn’t stop us coexisting in the world. That is all we need.
Veronica Victor: And I do hope a person doesn’t have to be friends with a person or with a group of people in order to recognise that they actually do deserve basic human existence. I wouldn’t have to be friends with somebody who is an extremist—a religious person. But I would say, okay, they deserve to be treated like a human. If they have done something bad, they should be treated like a human. They don’t deserve to be dehumanized. And I should hope that people, even if they are like, “You know the trans thing, I really don’t get it, but I think they deserve to be treated like a human.” I’m done. That’s great. We’re done.
Marianne Oakes: Yes, that is as much as it needs to be. What is the future for veronica? You told me that you started doing a course to be a therapist. I would be interested to hear about this. Do you have short-term plans, do you have long-term plans?
Veronica Victor: I never have a shortage of plans, are you joking me? That is a long list. At the moment now, I am in the middle of clearing out a huge segment of our garden so that I can build a table and chairs out of eco-bricks that we have been collecting for the past year. So yes, there are always plans; there is always something that is going on. For Veronica as a trans person, in my future, I foresee the podcast hopefully gaining some interest, gaining an audience, gaining people who support it. I hope to be ableto continue to use the podcast selfishly to reach out and interact with people that I look up to, like Juno Roach, for instance. It was a huge honour to be able to chat with them, and I hope to have bottom surgery. There is a lot to consider, as far as where to go, but that is in my future, and I feel like that would really complete me. I am currently on the board of TENI. So I hope to continue to ask the challenging questions there and get them to shape up. For anyone who doesn’t know, TENI is the Trans Equality Network of Ireland. I am starting school in September a four-year program to be a psychotherapist and a counsellor. And I am simultaneously at this moment now, I am taking a course on animal (unclear 48:15) interactions.My professional hope in the future is to start a private practice and use the puppy that we just got, a golden retriever puppy named Bruno, to be my emotional support therapy assistant in my sessions to help my clients work through difficult emotions or build rapport or feel more comfortable through this amazing, loving creature that I am head over heels in love with already. That is kind of my future. Of course, I mentioned doing the animal sanctuary as part of my therapeutic practice. Whether or not that works out, we’ll see. That is a big plan, that is like a five-year plan. We’ll see if the farmer even wants to sell the field. Yeah, I do hope that in my future I can help people and I can establish a service for trans people, for queer people, and for cis people who just need somebody to talk to and can reach out and feel comfortable going through whatever they are going through.
Marianne Oakes: That all sounds so absolutely fantastic, actually. I really hope that it works out. That idea of using animals to help clients open up and work through issues I think is really good. And it’s really something that I hope to see more of in the future. (unclear 49:40) I’m going to bring it to a close now. It’s been absolutely fantastic speaking with you, Veronica. There is just so much more to your story, so I am hoping we get to do a second one because I am still fascinated about the different places you’ve lived, your journey to where you are, so I am sure there is so much more. And what you want to create in the future—it all sounds very excellent. It’s been great having you on today. Good luck with everything, and thank you for giving us your time.
Veronica Victor: Thank you so much. If I could just do a little finish here. If there is anyone out there who is struggling with their relationship in terms of transitioning, my husband has actually started a blog. It’s partner-and-ally.com. And he’s just been chronicling our relationship as it goes through this transition and his perspective as an ally and a partner in this transitioning. I think it’s a wonderful resource for anybody out there who is going through the same. So look at that if you need some help.
Marianne Oakes: If he’s up for it, it might be the subject for another podcast as well. So, we’ll link it up on the website as well.
Veronica Victor: Great.